Before opening a business, a smart business owner will study his ideal customer to determine her consumer behavior. Advertising, and business itself, is useless unless you know what behavior you're trying to change or influence. If you've been in the business for a number of years, you may already know the basics of your customer base, but the experts will always have more to tell you. Consumer groups employ elaborate surveys, panels, focus groups and other means of studying consumer behavior, with the goal of finding out exactly what it takes to complete a sale.
Psychology Plays a Role
Consumers choose businesses and brands based on how they think, feel and reason. Analyzing what drives consumers’ emotions and responses through research can help companies position their products or services to be chosen more often.
A consumer buys based on what they see and hear. Factors like culture, family, advertising and media messages shape decisions. For example, teenagers want to buy clothes like their friends wear. Or, if a consumer grows up using a particular soap or laundry detergent that their family prefers, they might be more apt to buy those same brands as an adult.
Individuals and Groups Model Behaviours
Consumer behavior can be studied in terms of individuals or groups. Businesses can identify audiences that are similar in demographics such as age, gender, race or income. Then they can identify common motivators among those groups, like individuals who want the lowest price or consumers who are willing to pay more for luxury.
Goods and Services Matter
Consumers don’t just buy items. They also purchase services, lifestyles or images. Whether it is a tangible product like a household cleaner or a service like preparing an income tax return, consumers base their decisions on the same values and variables.
Consumer Behaviour Impacts Society
Consumers become what they buy. If, for example, consumers buy healthier food then overall wellness could improve. Or, conversely, if people consume more alcohol, tobacco or junk food, then overall health care costs could rise due to problems like obesity, cancer or heart disease.
Personalization Is Preferred
Personalized products and services have become popular because consumers like to be sold to specifically. One company has gone so far as to create earphones that are customized for their customers so that they get the best fit for their ears.
Convenience Is Desired
Consumers crave convenience because technology has made everything easier. Whether consumers are buying cars, booking trips or communicating with friends online, a business can benefit by capitalizing on the quest for more efficiency.
One of the most important characteristics of consumer behavior is that they often care as much about who they buy from as what they buy. Consumers like cool brands. Businesses that offer a compelling reason to buy from them, like cutting-edge technology, leading fashion or social consciousness, can score big. This can create a habit of repeat buying, a brand loyalty that will drive consumer action.
Knowledge Is Power
The first step in creating a marketing plan is studying consumer behavior. Knowing consumer behavior characteristics can help companies create more effective marketing strategies. For example, a business with a first-of-its-kind product would fare better by targeting early adopters who pride themselves on having the latest and greatest goods.
Shaping Without Selling
Companies also can influence consumers to take actions other than buying, like perhaps donating to charities or supporting public health initiatives, by knowing that consumers care about more than shopping. Consumers are more likely to support a business if they believe that the business shares their concerns.
People who run businesses can become better consumers themselves by studying characteristics of consumer behavior. By knowing consumer habits and desires, business owners can be more responsive to the market, offering more desirable products and creating more successful marketing programs.
Jim Molis has more than 20 years of experience writing for and about businesses. He has been a business reporter for the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer, a managing editor of the Atlanta Business Chronicle and an editor of the Jacksonville Business Journal. He also has written for management consultants, professional services firms and numerous publications as a freelancer.